Tuesday, November 27, 2007

paris riots

More than 80 police officers were injured in pitched battles with youths - some armed with hunting rifles - as housing estates around Paris erupted into violence for a second night running.

Police said that they faced "urban guerilla tactics" as they came under a hail of lead shot, molotov cocktails and other projectiles thrown by gangs of hooded youths, who also set fire to cars, bins and public buildings.

The clashes, which were described by one officer as worse than the riots which shook France's council estates in 2005, follow the deaths on Sunday of two teenagers whose motorbike hit a police patrol car in Villiers-le-Bel, north of the capital.

As last night's unrest spread from Villiers-le-Bel to neighbouring towns in the impoverished Val d'Oise departement, 80 police officers were injured, five seriously. At least 25 had been injured in rioting on Sunday. A total of 63 cars were set ablaze in Villiers-le-Bel, where gangs torched a library, two schools, a tax office and supermarket. Two French television reporters were also attacked and had their cameras stolen.

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Eyewitnesses said that at the height of the violence 160 riot police battled with youths for control of a roundabout in the centre of Villiers-le-Bel. As the rioters advanced behind dustbin lids, police were forced to retreat amid burning debris.

Bruno Beschizza, secretary-general of Synergie, the French police union, said that his members had faced "veritable urban guerilla tactics".

"There is a level of violence higher than in the urban riots of 2005," he said.

Michele Alliot-Marie, the French Interior Minister, said that many officers had been hit by lead shot from hunting rifles. "There are some who are seriously injured, which is to say they were hit in the face near the eye. Of course it's a worrying phenomenon." Police sources added that one officer was shot in the shoulder with a bullet from a high-calibre rifle. His life was not in danger.

Ms Alliot-Marie said that she had talked by telephone to President Sarkozy, who is on a state visit to China. After the conversation, in which Mr Sarkozy gave her advice on how to handle the crisis, she announced that she would visit Val d'Oise.

The disturbances came as prosecutors began a manslaughter inquiry into the deaths of two teenagers, Moushin, 15, and Larami, 16, both children of African immigrants, who are known only by their first names. An initial police investigation found that the pair were at fault, speeding through a red light on a mini dirt bike, unlicensed and without helmets.

Didier Vaillant, the Socialist mayor of Villiers-le-Bel, said: "I am appealing to all, so that we can get back to calm. We are in mourning. I ask all residents and especially the youth not to succumb to anger."

Arnaud Montebourg, a leading Socialist MP, said that France had failed to tackle the problems which led to the riots on its multi-ethnic housing estates two years ago. "If you have officers injured including five seriously after apparently being attacked with guns in one night, that means that no lessons have been drawn since 2005," he said.

Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party leader, added: "Promises were made. We want to see the results. How long have we been talking about a plan for the suburbs?"

Dominique de Villepin, who was Prime Minister in 2005 and promised to improve life in the suburbs of French cities, added that urgent action was required to defuse the anger. However, reports over the past month have shown that life has barely improved in the ghetto-like estates of the northern and eastern suburbs, where the children of immigrants suffer from poverty, unemployment and educational neglect.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, gave a provocative verdict: "There is an overpopulation of foreigners in our suburbs. There is unemployment, which means that people have time to wander around, to play with cars and all sorts of things, often with stolen cars."

The prosecutors' investigation will try to determine whether offences of manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident had been committed by the police officers driving the patrol car. After examining the vehicle car and interviewing the two officers, inspectors said that they had not been at fault. It was not clear, however, whether they had performed all their duties after the accident.

A brother of one of the victims accused the officers of ramming the motorbike and of failing to assist the boys. "This is a failure to assist a person in danger. They know it, and that's why they did not stay at the scene," he said. "I know they will say they left because they were afraid of clashes or of being assaulted, but up until now we have had no apology."

2005 civil unrest in France
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2005 French
civil unrest

The 2005 civil unrest in France of October and November was a series of riots and violent clashes, involving mainly the burning of cars and public buildings at night starting on October 27, 2005 in Clichy-sous-Bois. Events spread to poor housing projects (the cités HLM) in various parts of France. A state of emergency was declared on November 8, 2005. It was extended for three months on 16 November by the Parliament.[1][2][3] The biggest riots since the May 1968 unrest were triggered by the accidental death of two teenagers, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré, in Clichy-sous-Bois, a working-class commune in the eastern suburbs of Paris, who were chased by the police and tried to hide from the police in a power substation where they were electrocuted.

1 Timeline
2 Triggering event
3 Context
4 Assessment of rioting
4.1 Summary statistics
4.2 Figures and tables
5 Response
5.1 Allegations of an organized plot and Nicolas Sarkozy's controversial comments
5.2 State of emergency and measures concerning immigration policy
5.3 Police
5.4 Media coverage
6 References
6.1 Notes
7 Articles
8 See also
9 External links
9.1 Video
9.2 Photographs
9.3 Analysis
9.4 Eyewitness blog reports

[edit] Timeline
Main article: Timeline of the 2005 French civil unrest
While unrest had been building among the juvenile population in France, action was not taken until the reopening of schools in Autumn, since most of the French population is on vacation during the late summer months. However, riots began on Thursday 27 October 2005, triggered by the deaths of two teenagers in Clichy-sous-Bois, a poor commune in an eastern banlieue (suburb) of Paris. Initially confined to the Paris area, the unrest subsequently spread to other areas of the Île-de-France région, and spread through the outskirts of France's urban areas, also affecting some rural areas. After 3 November it spread to other cities in France, affecting all 15 of the large aires urbaines in the country. Thousands of vehicles were burned, and at least one person was killed by the rioters. Close to 2900 rioters were arrested.

On 8 November, President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency effective at midnight. Despite the new regulations, riots continued, though on a reduced scale, the following two nights, and again worsened the third night. On 9 November and the morning of 10 November a school was burned in Belfort, and there was violence in Toulouse, Lille, Strasbourg, Marseille, and Lyon.

On 10 November and the morning of 11 November, violence increased overnight in the Paris region, and there were still a number of police wounded across the country.[4] According to the Interior Minister, violence, arson, and attacks on police worsened on the 11th and morning of the 12th, and there were further attacks on power stations, causing a blackout in the northern part of Amiens.

Rioting took place in the city center of Lyon on Saturday, 12 November, as young people attacked cars and threw rocks at riot police who responded with tear gas. Also that night, a nursery school was torched in the southern town of Carpentras.[5]

On the night of the 14th and the morning of the 15th, 215 vehicles were burned across France and 71 people were arrested.Thirteen vehicles were torched in central Paris, compared to only one the night before. In the suburbs of Paris, firebombs were thrown at the treasury in Bobigny and at an electrical transformer in Clichy-sous-Bois, the neighborhood where the disturbances started. A daycare centre in Cambrai and a tourist agency in Fontenay-sous-Bois were also attacked. Eighteen buses were damaged by arson at a depot in Saint-Etienne. The mosque in Saint-Chamond was hit by three firebombs, which did little damage.

Only 163 vehicles went up in flames on the 20th night of unrest, 15 November to 16, leading the French government to claim that the country was returning to an "almost normal situation". During the night's events, a Roman Catholic church was burned and a vehicle was rammed into an unoccupied police station in Romans-sur-Isère. In other incidents, a police officer was injured while making an arrest after youths threw bottles of acid at the town hall in Pont-l'Évêque, and a junior high school in Grenoble was set on fire. Fifty arrests were carried out across the country.[6]

On 16 November, the French parliament approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency (which ended on the 4 January 2006) aimed at curbing riots by urban youths. The Senate on Wednesday passed the extension - a day after a similar vote in the lower house. The laws allow local authorities to impose curfews, conduct house-to-house searches and ban public gatherings. The lower house passed them by a 346-148 majority, and the Senate by 202-125.[7]

A wine festival in Grenoble, Le Beaujolais nouveau, ended in rioting on the night of 18 November, with a crowd throwing rocks and bottles at riot police. Tear gas was deployed by officers. Sixteen youths and 17 police officers were injured. Though those events might have been easily linked with the riots in Paris suburbs, it appears they differ completely in nature and might just well be considered as predictable "wine festival" casualties, caused by misunderstanding and alcohol.

[edit] Triggering event

Areas of Rioting in the Paris region as of 4 NovemberCiting two police investigations, The New York Times reported that the incident began at 17:20 on Thursday, 27 October 2005 in Clichy-sous-Bois when police was called to a construction site to investigate a possible break-in. Three teenagers, thinking they were being chased by the police, climbed a wall to hide in a power substation. Six youths were detained by 17:50. During questioning at the police station in Livry-Gargan at 18:12, blackouts occurred at the station and in nearby areas. These were caused, police say, by the electrocution of two boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traoré; a third boy suffered electric shock injury from the power substation they were hiding in.[8]

"According to statements by Mr. Altun, who remains hospitalized with injuries, a group of ten or so friends had been playing football on a nearby field and were returning home when they saw the police patrol. They all fled in different directions to avoid the lengthy questioning that youths in the housing projects say they often face from the police. They say they are required to present identity papers and can be held as long as four hours at the police station, and sometimes their parents must come before the police will release them." - NY Times[9]

There is controversy over whether the teens were actually being chased. The local prosecutor, François Molins, said that although they believed so, the police were actually after other suspects attempting to avoid an identity check.[10] Molins and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy maintained that the dead teenagers had not been "physically pursued" by the police. This is disputed by some: The Australian reports, "Despite denials by police officials and Sarkozy and de Villepin, friends of the boys said they were being pursued by police after a false accusation of burglary and that they "feared interrogation".

This event ignited pre-existing tensions. Protesters told The Associated Press the unrest was an expression of frustration with high unemployment and police harassment and brutality. "People are joining together to say we've had enough," said one protester. "We live in ghettos. Everyone lives in fear."[11] The rioters' suburbs are also home to a large, mostly North African, immigrant population, allegedly adding religious tensions, which some right-wing commentators believed contribute further to such frustrations. However, according to Pascal Mailhos, head of the Renseignements Généraux (French intelligence agency) radical islamism had no influence over the 2005 civil unrest in France.[12]

[edit] Context
Main article: Social situation in the French suburbs
Commenting other demonstrations in Paris a few months later, the BBC summarized reasons behind the events included youth unemployment and lack of opportunities in France's poorest communities.[13]

The head of the Direction centrale des renseignements généraux found no Islamic factor in the riots, while the New York Times reported on November 5, 2005 that "while a majority of the youths committing the acts are Muslim, and of African or North African origin" local residents say that "second-generation Portuguese immigrants and even many children of native French have taken part."[14]

The BBC reported that French society's negative perceptions of Islam and social discrimination of immigrants had alienated some French Muslims and may have been a factor in the causes of the riots; "Islam is seen as the biggest challenge to the country's secular model in the past 100 years".[15] It reported that there was a "huge well of fury and resentment among the children of North African and African immigrants in the suburbs of French cities".[16] However, the editorial also questioned whether or not such alarm is justified, citing that France's Muslim ghettos are not hotbeds of separatism and that "the suburbs are full of people desperate to integrate into the wider society."[17]

Racial and social discrimination against persons with dark skin or Arabic and/or African-sounding names has been cited as a major cause of unhappiness in the areas affected. According to the BBC, "Those who live there say that when they go for a job, as soon as they give their name as "Mamadou" and say they live in Clichy-sous-Bois, they are immediately told that the vacancy has been taken." The nonprofit organization SOS Racisme, associated with the French Socialist Party (PS), said that after they sent identical curriculum vitaes (CVs) to French companies with European- and African or Muslim-sounding names attached, they found CVs with African or Muslim sounding names were systematically discarded. In addition, they have claimed widespread use of markings indicating ethnicity in employers' databases and that discrimination is more widespread for those with college degrees than for those without.[18][19]


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